Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos poured cold water on Thursday on governing party officials’ high expectations for a post-program emancipation from obligations such as reducing pensions as of January 2019 and achieving high primary surpluses of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product by making it clear that such prospects are impossible and the priority at the moment lies in completing the program.
“The Greek government’s position is that this is not a good time for such a discussion,” he said when asked about the possibility of avoiding the pension cuts, leaving no scope for doubt about the application of the measure, which has also been incorporated into the European Commission forecasts issued yesterday.
Tsakalotos, who recently caused some discontent in his party after revealing that the post-program surveillance would entail three to four visits per year by the country’s creditors, added that the government currently has its eyes firmly fixed on the target, which is the completion of the fourth bailout review, the deal on the post-program monitoring and a solution to the debt issue.
On the possibility of trimming the primary surplus target, he responded, “We will see in the coming years,” depending also on the course of negotiations regarding the future of Europe with less austerity.
He even corroborated the International Monetary Fund on the issue of pensions, saying that they should not substitute the welfare state. Grandmothers aren’t supposed to use their pensions to pay their children’s rent, he said, adding that Greece cannot spend almost the same on pensions as the most advanced countries, without leaving anything in the coffers for social expenditure.
The minister admitted that Germany wants the easing of the Greek national debt to be associated with terms and conditions, which runs counter to the intentions of all of the country’s creditors, including the IMF. In any case, he stated, the debt-easing measures will turn Greece from an excessively overindebted country to a normally overindebted country.